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Navigating Hand Luggage Regulations for Your Next Trip to the USA


Travel to the USA and hand luggage: restrictions and rules

The anticipated date of departure for the United States is approaching, and after having completed the organization of the trip, made of flight and hotel bookings, checking the validity of all travel documents, and being a citizen eligible for Visa Waiver Program, having requested and obtained the ESTA visa for USA, it's time to prepare the luggage. 

In this article, we will specifically deal with hand luggage and everything that can be included in it, and the rules that must be respected. What do international regulations provide? What are the restrictions on what can be introduced in the hand luggage? And the hold luggage?

Dimensions and weight of hand luggage

A premise that must be made is that each airline applies a different policy regarding the dimensions and weight of luggage that can be introduced in the cabin and hold luggage. While some companies offer the possibility of having a larger bag with an additional charge, such as a notebook bag, a woman's bag, crutches and stroller, other companies, especially those LowCost, are more restrictive in terms of dimensions and quantity for hand luggage.

Even if we are talking about intercontinental flights, heading to the USA, often there is a need for a stopover in other European or extra countries. For this reason, it is advisable to stay informed about the regulations of the airlines that are used for travel. In this paragraph, we will give a brief overview regarding the dimensions of hand luggage and hold luggage that the most important airlines allow.

  • Air France: In addition to hand luggage of the dimensions of 55x35x25 cm, Air France allows you to carry with you a kit that can be a handbag or a notebook. For both packages, you must not exceed the maximum weight of 12 Kg if traveling with economy fare. If traveling with higher fares, the weight limit increases to 18 Kg. If traveling with you is a small child, who is held on your lap, Air France gives the possibility to add additional luggage, for example a stroller, which does not exceed 12 Kg. For stowed luggage, everything depends on the class of flight purchased. In economy class, you can have a hold luggage with a maximum weight of 23 Kg for 158 Cm. If this limit is exceeded, an additional charge must be paid. For super-economy fares, hold luggage is not included.
  • Ita: The Italian flag carrier always allows you to carry in the cabin a hand luggage with a maximum weight of 8Kg whose dimensions must not exceed 55x35x25 Cm. Alitalia also allows you to carry with you in addition to hand luggage also an additional supplement such as a woman's handbag, a notebook bag, a stroller if traveling with small children or even crutches or other medical devices. As for the hold luggage, Alitalia usually includes it in the ticket price, but not always. The weight of the hold luggage varies depending on the destination and the class. In general, the stowed luggage must not exceed 23 Kg (economy fare) if the routes are short, for example to European countries, it can even be doubled, that is 2 suitcases of 23 Kg if the routes are intercontinental, such as that for the United States. It is always advisable to inquire with the company before confirming the flight.
  • British Airways: For British Air, the hand luggage dimensions are 56x45x25 cm and these measures include handles, wheels, and side pockets. The passenger is also allowed to carry with him a handbag or a bag for the PC, as long as it does not exceed the dimensions of 40x30x15 cm. The stowed luggage, like for other companies, is linked to the type of ticket purchased, but in any case, it cannot exceed 23 Kg in weight and its dimensions must not exceed 90x75x43.
  • Iberia: The company allows each traveler to introduce in the cabin a piece of luggage and a personal item. The dimensions of the cabin trolley must not exceed the limit of 56x45x25 (including handle, pockets, and wheels). As for the weight, Iberia does not give indications on the limit. Regarding the hold luggage, a trolley of a maximum weight of 23 Kg with a height limit of 158 cm is included in the ticket. The maximum weight allowed by Iberia is 32 Kg per suitcase, obviously paying an additional fee. Note that Iberia does not accept luggage exceeding 32 Kg.
  • Lufthansa : Allows a hand luggage with a maximum weight of 8Kg and dimension limit of 55x40x23 Cm. In addition to hand luggage, Lufthansa also allows you to carry another item which can be chosen from a handbag, a PC holder, a foldable stroller for children, or personal mobility aid devices. As for the stowed luggage, for the Economy class a luggage of a maximum height of 23 Kg and height limit of 158 Cm is allowed. The weight and the number of suitcases included in the ticket can also vary based on the route.


In this paragraph, we have only seen some of the most important airlines that operate intercontinental flights to the USA. A separate paragraph should be dedicated to LowCost companies like Ryanair, EasyJet, Vueling, Air Italy, which operate flights for short routes on the European territory and which are often used as carriers to stopover airports towards the United States. Often for these companies, the policies related to hand luggage and hold luggage can vary significantly. It is advisable to inquire in advance with them, to avoid surprises at the time of check-in."

Liquids in Hand Luggage

The issue of liquids that a passenger can carry in hand luggage is somewhat complicated, composed of strict rules and set limit quantities. Those who do not often travel by plane, in some cases, find themselves in difficulty during boarding checks due to the amount of liquids found inside the luggage. It often happens that many travelers are forced to abandon personal items such as perfume bottles, shampoos, lotions, or cosmetic products at the checkpoint, simply because, not having informed themselves beforehand, they exceeded the allowed quantity.

Let's see now how to prepare hand luggage, respecting the rule of liquids on the plane.

The first thing to say concerns checked luggage, in fact, the liquid rule does not apply to it. This means that it will be possible to include the desired quantities of liquids in the suitcase to be stowed, always paying attention to the limits per product imposed by the authorities. The advice we can give is to insert all those liquid products not essential during the trip into the stowed luggage, so as not to have problems at security checks. On the contrary, if you need to always carry some liquid products with you or because you do not have a stowed suitcase, then you must respect the rules that regulate quantities without exceeding the allowed limits.

The maximum permitted quantity of liquids that can be introduced into hand luggage is 1 L, and this quantity must be divided into containers with a maximum capacity of 100 ml each. What does that just written mean? That you cannot introduce a single 1 L container into the cabin, for example, a bottle of water, but rather 10 bottles of 100 ml each.

For liquids, in addition to the classic drinks or syrups, all those products used for personal care are also meant, such as hair gel, deodorants, sprays, shampoos, toothpastes, mascara, perfumes, creams, and all those products with similar consistency. The restrictions apply whether you travel on domestic, international, or intercontinental flights.

These products must be divided precisely, so as not to risk exceeding the overall limit of the liter. On the market, most companies have introduced products contained in containers with quantities from 50 ml to 100 ml to facilitate possible air travel. If the interested product is not on the market with a travel size, you can always purchase standard 100 ml containers and decant the product. There are complete travel kits on the market.

All 100 ml containers must be placed in a resealable transparent plastic bag, whose capacity does not exceed one liter.

At the time of the security check, the bag containing the various containers will have to be extracted from the hand luggage and shown to the security staff, who will verify the admissibility of the products.


Dangerous Objects

As can be understood from the title of this paragraph, attention must be paid to all those objects included in carry-on luggage that could be considered dangerous by security personnel. 

All pointed, sharp, but also blunt objects, which could be used as an improvised weapon, are considered dangerous. If there is a need to carry such objects during the journey, it is advisable to place them in the checked luggage. Naturally, there are objects and products that cannot be included in carry-on or checked luggage. We're talking about objects or products that are flammable or can explode.

Carrying shaving razors in the cabin is allowed, either disposable ones or those with a replaceable head. Non-permitted razors are those with a blade that opens. As for shaving foam, it is subject to the liquid rule, i.e., it must be included in a container of maximum 100 ml. 

Also, umbrellas, depending on the airline, are often considered inadmissible. For this reason, it is advisable to store it in the checked suitcase.

Food and Medicines

It is possible to carry food in the carry-on luggage, even in liquid form, if, for example, you are traveling with a child who needs their milk. In this case, during checks, it is good to separate the container that contains the milk. Food is also allowed for use during the flight. Naturally, any food items introduced into the USA, both in hand luggage and checked luggage, will need to be declared on the appropriate form provided by flight attendants and will be subject to inspection by customs authorities upon arrival. 

For medicines, there are no restrictions on quantities from 1 Lt that will be used during the flight. For safety, always make sure that the medicine container, such as the inhaler for respiratory diseases, is in a 100 ml container. It is good to always have the medical prescription with you.


Duty-free shops are retail stores where state taxes do not apply to products and are generally found in airports in areas immediately after passing security checks. Their location implies that products purchased in Duty-Free, especially bottles of alcohol, wine, perfumes, creams, and similar products, are not subject to liquid restrictions. It's important to keep the purchased products sealed in the original store bags and accompanied by a receipt until the destination airport, by doing so you will be able to bring the product purchased with you even in the USA.

Heading to the USA

It is important to remember that for travel to the United States, it is essential to obtain the ESTA USA authorization before departure if you belong to those countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program and the purpose of the trip is purely tourist and the duration of the stay does not exceed 90 days. If the ESTA requirements are not met, then you will need to opt for another type of short-term US visa. For further information, you can refer to our documents enclosed in the ESTA Guide and in particular the meaning of ESTA.


In this article, we have read about various restrictions and regulations imposed by airlines for carry-on luggage. The most important rule is about liquids. To pass security checks without problems and stress, simply respect the rule for liquids, preparing before departure everything needed, and dividing the products in question into small containers with a maximum capacity of 100 ml, up to a maximum of 1 LT. These containers will then have to be placed in a resealable transparent plastic bag and shown separately at the time of the check. The same applies to accessories that are often accompanied by hand luggage or inserted into it, such as laptops, tablets, and other electronic devices. These products, like the liquid bag, must be removed from the luggage and shown separately to the security personnel. To avoid stress and long delays , it is advisable to place all objects intended for separate inspection at the top of the luggage for easy access. Do not forget to check the dimensions and weight before departure, both for carry-on and checked luggage.

For purchases at Duty-Free, it is advisable to make them at the last airport before the destination, if the trip involves one or more stops, to avoid having to go through additional security checks.

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